Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘property maintenance

Building Antibodies

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Not being one to wait around for possible illness symptoms to show up, yesterday I joined Cyndie in a significant landscaping project just minutes after receiving my second vaccine shot. The amount of physical exertion we undertook pretty much guaranteed we would feel sore joints and muscles today. It makes it difficult to discern what percentage of my achiness this morning is due to my body being busy developing protection against COVID-19.

The slightly elevated temperature provides a clue that my stiffness isn’t exclusively confined to the contortions I put my body through to dig out a drainage ditch yesterday and move the dirt to the far side of the barn to fill an area that showed renewed settling this spring.

The surface grade between Cyndie’s perennial garden and our driveway had risen every year due to soil flowing downhill from our neighbor’s cultivated field. It had reached a point where runoff wasn’t making it to the drain culvert anymore and would instead flow across the driveway.

I devised a plan to cut into the sod and roll sections back, allowing us to dig the level down multiple inches. We could avoid leaving a dirt swale that would require seeding by simply rolling the sod back down after lowering the level.

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The methods changed and evolved as we took turns digging, hauling, dumping, shaping, and cutting sod, but the end result was wonderfully effective.

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This project provided one of my favorite rewards in tasks around the property in that we achieved two goals simultaneously. Ticked two lines off the to-do list all at once. Being able to pass these two locations as we go about our activities and notice the ditch beside the driveway is fixed to provide flow to the culvert and the dip in the turf above the paddocks is filled up again brings recurring joy and satisfaction.

Compare that to the ongoing grief of seeing the problem growing daily for the last few years. I finished the day giddy with delight.

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By removing the high spot in the drain path beside the driveway, we are building “antibodies,” so to speak, to fight off water flow problems on our land.

I have no concerns if it rains today. The drainage ditch could use some washing of leftover dirt and I plan to give my body the day off to rest. We got two things done at once yesterday. We deserve a day off!

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Necessary Evil

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One of the tasks I tend to delay more than any others is cutting down trees. There are times it needs to happen and times it probably should happen, but I struggle with knowing when an ailing tree honestly has no future. I usually choose to rely on time to make the status obvious.

Waiting comes at the expense of a perfect landscape view. Cyndie admitted to not enjoying the scene out across the deck that, from her vantage point, was always filled with the brown needles of another dying pine tree. I respect that.

Yesterday, we dispatched the fading relic. A necessary evil.

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Of course, I saved a portion of the trunk to serve as a platform for balanced rock art.

While I was at it, I also trimmed a section that looked like it had potential to become a future heart sculpture.

Do you see the beautiful pine heart hiding inside there that I see?

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2021 at 10:40 am

Reclaiming Space

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Picking up where we left off over a month ago, this past weekend we resumed cutting away at the tangle of growth along the hedge wall of our north property line.

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It’s rewarding work, despite how frustrating it is to deal with so many twisted branches locked together by vines. I am forever baffled by how much resistance the littlest of branches offer against attempts to pull them apart.

Usually, the key is to push them further together in order to reposition the catch points before pulling them apart, but that is counterintuitive to the goal of separating them. The natural inclination is to try pulling harder in the assumption that arm muscle is significantly more powerful than the spindly twig junctions.

Now our perimeter walks around the property with Delilah can follow right beside the old barbed wire fence on that length of our north loop.

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Written by johnwhays

November 9, 2020 at 7:00 am

More Clearing

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On Saturday, we worked on the north side of our property. Yesterday, we directed our attention to the south. It has been several years since I properly worked to clear the drainage ditch that runs along most of the southern border of our property.

The first winter we were here I saw how the accumulated snow piled up against the neglected growth of brush and small trees in the drainage path. It acted as a dam and caused water to overflow the ditch during the spring melt. I remedied that for the next season by cutting out the trees and mowing the length of the ditch.

Lucky for us, the overflow poured into the neighbor’s field that year, not ours. He never said anything about it, but I’m sure he is happy seeing the attention I have given toward keeping the ditch clear since then.

I was complacent last year and skipped doing any cutting, so the random volunteer trees were able to establish themselves a little more significantly than I’d prefer.

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After first clearing each end of the ditch with the power trimmer, the rest was a cinch with the brush cutter on the diesel tractor. Well, that is, after pruning some branches that interfered with the upper portions of the tractor. Once we trimmed those, I just backed my way the length of the ditch and returned.

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Voilà.

Let the water flow.

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2020 at 6:00 am

Pondering Still

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In a simple reflection of the stressful current events that hardly need listing, my days are splattered with competing demands commanding my attention. I’m growing weary of the constant exercise of redirecting my energy from the angst-inducing to the peaceful loving focus I prefer.

I should be rewarded by the project of clearing brush we worked on yesterday in the uncharacteristic high humidity, but the slow progress was overshadowed by the pall of troublesome political, societal, and environmental issues simmering in a brew of the coronavirus pandemic stew.

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The front (or eastern) half of the northern border of our property has a natural fence of uncontrolled growth that I have long sought to turn into a wall by trimming it like a hedge. A year or so after we moved here, I made a first swipe along the span, cutting back the existing growth. In the ensuing years, I have gained enough confidence to cut the “hedge” much closer to the very old and mostly buried barbed wire fence that long ago defined the property line.

Yesterday’s effort was nice to accomplish, but it was a sweaty struggle against the frustrating strength of entangled vines that fought back unendingly against our every attempt to clear branches. The grey clouds hung low and the high dew point temperature gave the September air an odd thickness that was the opposite of inspiring freshness.

For all the progress we made, stepping back to look at the distance that still remained to be cleared revealed how little had actually been gained. It felt all too similar to the issues of social justice that are far from being accomplished.

The world at large does influence each of our own individual environments. If anyone is suffering, we all suffer.

A new Minnesota poll just released highlighted a variety of details related to the pending U.S. Presidential election. One that resonated in particular for me was how the level of education reflected the differing amount of support for the two main candidates. I think that speaks volumes.

Don’t ever vote stupid. Get educated on our democracy. Become smart enough to recognize integrity.

Imagine if we could vote in a government that would work to protect citizens from stupid ideas. Oh to have a Federal Government that would swiftly and intelligently address the pandemic. Oh to have leaders who would uphold the intent of our protections against harming the environment. Oh to have leaders who could enforce financial ethics guidelines.

Oh to have the entire length of our “hedge” shaped by the time next spring’s growth begins to expand it once again.

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Written by johnwhays

September 27, 2020 at 10:32 am

Focus Shift

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I started the day yesterday with our Stihl power trimmer working primarily along the hay-field fence line out by the road. With the field freshly cut, the strip of tall grass along the fence stood out in obvious need of attention. It looks so nice when that is cleaned up.

After the first tank of gas was used up, I walked back to the shop to stretch my legs out and refill the tank. While there, I took a little break to answer nature’s call at the base of a pine tree and noticed a vine growing up from deep inside the tangle of branches. Thinking I should tend to the situation in the moment instead of waiting until it was out of sight/out of mind, I fetched a saw from the shop and braved the thick web of poking limbs, slithering into the shadow world beneath the tree.

From that vantage point, I discovered there were many more than just the one obvious vine growing into the heights. As I worked my way around the circumference of that tree, I came to another right beside it with even more unwelcome intruders climbing up its branches.

After the second tree, I moved on to a third, and a fourth, soon recognizing that this side project could consume the rest of my day if I let it.

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The remaining trees can wait. I went back to trimming the tall grass along the edges of the hay-field.

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Like This

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It’s like this every year. The forest is constantly changing, but it becomes apparent suddenly all at once. It’s not as thick as it was before. Sightlines start to open up. It becomes easier to see deeper into our woods and I discover new and interesting spectacles.

This dead tree had sloughed its bark, but a vine prevented the old skin from dropping all the way to the ground, creating an eye-catching visual.

It’s also like this when deciding to go outside on a day of varying weather conditions. Our sky was a mix of sun and clouds yesterday, resulting in dramatic swings between cheery and gloomy. When I finally rallied to head outside to get something productive accomplished, the air was suddenly wet with waves of heavy mist.

My timing was off by about ten minutes. As fast as that precipitation arrived, it departed.

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Those two views were taken at the same time, first looking east, then turning around to the west.

The swings of dreariness messed with my motivation, such that I ended up puttering the day away nipping at the edges of doing something significant, but never really making much progress to speak of.

Some days, that’s just what it’s like around here.

At least it’s a beautiful place to be when not getting all that much done.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2019 at 7:41 am

Like Ships

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It’s funny how it can feel like I’m in a relationship with another vehicle on the drive home from the lake when it travels the same speed and direction as I am going. When they finally went straight through a roundabout that I turned south from, I felt as if I should send them off with some acknowledgment of the road miles we shared.

I arrived home yesterday around 11:00 a.m. and watched Cyndie prepare for a trip of her own. She left for a seminar in California, so I am on my own this week. We are like ships passing in the night lately.

Or, like cars on a drive home from the lake.

When she returns home at the end of the week, the plan is for us to head back up to the lake for the weekend. That will make three weeks in a row that I have been up there. I can’t remember the last time that happened.

It’s a treat, for sure, but it does require that I do the lawn mowing after work in the middle of the week and interferes with ever getting back to the lumberjack projects that linger in our woods unfinished. Small concerns, both of them, compared to the glorious beauty we get to enjoy up in the Hayward area.

I have a sense that a day is going to come when I will be facing long hours of labor with a chainsaw this fall. Too bad the hours of daylight get shorter as summer wanes. But, it’s the summer sunshine that is giving us all the more reason to be up on the water while the going is good.

You could say, the lumberjack projects and my attention to them are a little like ships passing in the night.

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2019 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ Green

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With a little rearranging in the garage, I moved the ATV and snowplow to the back and brought the lawn tractor to the front. It’s a definitive sign of the change of season. I also got the back yard mowed, which brought out a whole lot of green in our landscape.

Probably in large part, because it chewed up the leaves from last fall that were still covering the bulk of the back hill, because we never got around to raking them before the snow arrived.

From there, we headed down to the labyrinth, where Cyndie pulled weeds and I reassembled the fallen blocks around our compost and wood chip locations.

Now, we need to replenish the wood chips, and there are plenty of branches waiting to be chipped. A short distance to the right from the view in that photo, there was a collection of branches from two years ago, when we hired professionals to trim dead wood from our trees.

It was a big reward to finally start pulling the debris out, because every time I have passed those trees since the day it was cut, I’ve wanted to have the job done.

I probably got through about half of what needs to be pulled out and stacked for processing, but it’s a good start.

I look forward to transforming that pile of branches into a filled wood chip station, which Cyndie can then use to dress up the landscape around her labyrinth plants.

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Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2019 at 6:00 am

Temperature Driven

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Some chores don’t wait for a time when I actually feel like doing them. Draining hoses is one of those chores. Of course, who decides to coil up their garden hoses when it is warm and sunny outside? Not me.

It would be a treat to do it while the hoses were still pliable. That’s never been my experience. More often than not, I let the chore wait until the forecast suddenly predicts sub-freezing temperatures for the coming night.

Yesterday, that led to my needing to wrestle stiff coils in the damp and chilly fading daylight after I got home from work and tended to the animals.

Can you say, long day?

Delilah was very patient and stayed out with me while I worked, even though it pushed back her dinner to a later than normal hour. It demonstrates how much she treasures being out with us on a task. It is distinctly different from going for a walk.

She totally understands we are ‘working’ on something. We walked to the different locations where the hoses were being used, and after dragging each one back to the shop, she would look up at me to determine if it was time to go in the house, or if we were setting out after another hose.

After letting her in the house to have dinner, I stepped back out before it got dark to bring the air compressor up so I could blow out the buried water line that runs down to the spigot at the labyrinth garden.

With that chore accomplished, the only task left in preparation for serious freezing temperatures is to pull the pump and filter out of the landscape pond. I’m not worried about that for this first freeze tonight, because that water is moving and is unlikely to lock up with this first, brief dip below 32°(F).

For this night, we are now prepared to experience the possible freeze worry-free.

I think I’ll be a little disappointed if it doesn’t end up actually happening.

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Written by johnwhays

October 11, 2018 at 6:00 am